cover image THE PROGRAM


Stephen White, THE PROGRAMStephen White

Once it recovers from a wobbly beginning, this ninth thriller in the bestselling series featuring Boulder, Colo., clinical psychologist Alan Gregory sprints competently along. Peyton Francis, aka Kirsten Lord, was once a New Orleans district attorney. Now she and her nine-year-old daughter are enrolled in the witness protection program, in hiding from Peyton's husband's assassin, who was most likely hired by a Colombian drug lord Peyton put away for life. Given a new ID and moved to Boulder, Peyton is befriended by another witness protection participant, a former mob hitman who, like herself, is referred by the Feds to Dr. Gregory for counseling. Plagued by doubts about the federal marshal entrusted with her safety and tortured by second thoughts about the impending execution of a black man she may have mistakenly sent to death row in Florida, Peyton races against time to stay the Florida execution, and is forced to go into hiding from the very witness protection forces assigned to protect her. The usually sure-handed White is guilty of some artless writing at the novel's start, creating a veritable obstacle course of meandering points of view, including an obscure long-running metaphoric thread linking repressed memories to images of a pod of whales. However, once the narrative drive settles mainly into Peyton's first-person voice, the story comes handily together. Featuring an interesting cast, including a young Texas schoolmarm turned professional hit person, a sinister cabal of federal marshals with hidden agendas and an entrepreneurial assassination broker in Atlanta, the narrative drives to an edge-of-your-seat denouement. Author tour. (Apr.)

Forecast:This is not White's best effort, but fans of the series will check in to catch up on Alan Gregory's adventures—his wife is pregnant with their first child in this installment.